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Fala, President Roosevelt’s Beloved Dog

In accord with Greenbelt’s deep connection with Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and keen interest in canines too, here is brief #museumfromhome about Fala, the Roosevelt’s dearly loved and famous dog.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt with Fala

Fala was a Christmas gift to Franklin. Born on April 7, 1940, Fala was a beautiful Scottish Terrier. He immediately found favor in the White House among the staff, kitchen staff in particular. Fala hadn’t been in residence very long when he began suffering from gastrointestinal problems, and upon investigation FDR found that the chefs were giving many treats to the little dog. The President ordered that he alone should feed Fala. It was reported that a bone on a silver platter was delivered each morning for the President to give to his dog. Problem solved!

Fala traveled with President Roosevelt and became quite famous. He appeared in photos, was written about, and was featured in a film about everyday life at the White House. US soldiers used his name as a code word during guard duty in WWII Europe. With this level of fame, it isn’t hard to understand why Fala was used to score political points during the 1944 presidential election. It was alleged by the opposition that Roosevelt had accidentally forgotten Fala in the Aleutian Islands during a stop there, and that he had sent a navy destroyer back for the little dog, to the tune of about $20 million dollars. It was untrue, and Roosevelt gave a well received speech defending Fala’s honor.

Eleanor Roosevelt and Fala

Fala met Winston Churchill. He went along to Pearl Harbor when Roosevelt met with General Douglas MacArthur and Admiral Chester Nimitz, and the soldiers were so excited by his presence that they snipped off pieces of his fur to send home. After being told what happened, the President ordered that soldiers confine their adoration to petting Fala.

It has been said that Eleanor was not terribly fond of having Fala in the White House. After the President passed away in April 1945, the faithful dog behaved strangely for a few days, but after attending FDR’s funeral Eleanor and Fala bonded and moved to Val-Kill together. He had plenty of space to run and play, and another Scotty relative of his was adopted to keep Fala company. His life was happy.

Fala died in April of 1952, and was buried at Hyde Park, near President Roosevelt, and next to another beloved Roosevelt dog, Chief. A stuffed version of Fala lives in the child’s bedroom at the Greenbelt Museum.

Extra credit: Watch and listen to a recording of President Roosevelt talking about Fala

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